Blaze of negligence

Till last year, the national capital had not witnessed any major fire tragedy ever since an inferno swept through Uphaar Cinema on June 13, 1997, claiming 59 lives.

Blaze of negligence

sanjiv@tribunemail.com

Till last year, the national capital had not witnessed any major fire tragedy ever since an inferno swept through Uphaar Cinema on June 13, 1997, claiming 59 lives. The blaze at a hotel in Karol Bagh in February this year, which left 17 dead, should have been a wake-up call for the authorities concerned. It was an opportunity for them to get their act together and initiate a crackdown on owners of business establishments who violate fire safety norms with impunity. However, nothing has changed on the ground, as horrifyingly underscored by the loss of 43 people in a fire that engulfed a four-storey building housing illegal manufacturing units in the congested Anaj Mandi area on Sunday.

Non-residential activities on residential premises are allowed under certain conditions, laid down in Delhi’s Master Plan. The civic authorities had surveyed the building recently, but the upper floors were found locked, due to which the entire structure ‘could not be inspected’. Officials were scheduled to visit the building again to survey the upper floors and accordingly issue a show-cause notice, but the delay has proved fatal. The AAP government and the BJP, which controls the municipal corporations, are blaming each other for the disaster. In their game of morbid one-upmanship, both are expected to announce measures that highlight their new-found resolve to do what should have anyways been done earlier. With the Assembly elections just two months away, all main parties will give high priority to fire safety in their manifestos. Going by their track record, however, the status quo will eventually prevail, as the political will to take strict action has often been found lacking.

Even as we doff our hats to the firefighters who entered the cauldron and carried many unconscious labourers on their backs, it’s a fact that they saved precious lives against all the odds. Firemen should be well equipped so that they can conduct a productive rescue operation in the shortest possible time. The offenders and lax officials who push these bravehearts into the line of fire must not go unpunished. With several areas of Delhi being tinderboxes, concerted efforts are needed to avert another tragedy.

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